A group of biomedical engineers at the University of Minnesota have successfully completed an experiment in which men and women controlled a small quad-copter with their minds. In a paper published yesterday in the open-access Journal of Neural Engineering, the researchers explained how “subjects were able to quickly, accurately and continuously pursue a series of foam ring targets and pass through them in a real-world environment using only their ‘thoughts’.”
For the experiment, two men and three women between the ages of 21 and 28 were fitted with 64-electrode electroencephalogram (EEG) caps that monitor brain activity. EEGs are a standard medical procedure in neurology (as in the picture above). They’re generally used to help diagnose epilepsy and other brain disorders. Researchers fed the EEG data into a computer to establish a baseline.
Once the computer was trained to recognise their brain patterns, researchers programmed it to interpret brain signals as instructions to do certain things. For instance, in the first stage of training, a participant could move a cursor on a screen towards a target on the right by thinking about moving her right arm.